Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Municipal Responses to ‘Illegality’: Urban Sanctuary across National Contexts

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Abstract:  Cities often seek to mitigate the highly precarious situation of Illegalized (or undocumented) migrants. In this context, “sanctuary cites” are an innovative urban response to exclusionary national policies. In this article, we expand the geographical scope of sanctuary policies and practices beyond Canada, the USA, and the UK, where the policies and practices are well-known. In particular, we explore corresponding urban initiatives in Chile, Germany, and Spain. We find that varying kinds of urban-sanctuary policies and practices permit illegalized migrants to cope with their situations in particular national contexts. However, different labels, such as “city of refuge,” “commune of reception,” or “solidarity city” are used to describe such initiatives. While national, historical, and geopolitical contexts distinctly shape local efforts to accommodate illegalized migrants, recognizing similarities across national contexts is important to develop globally-coordinated and internationally-inspired responses at the urban scale.

Keywords:  migrants; municipalities; refuge; sanctuary cities; scale; solidarity cities



© Harald Bauder, Dayana A. Gonzalez. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.